CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - While President Joe Biden is calling for tighter gun control laws across the country, South Carolinians should not expect the same from their leader.
Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said he believes some of the president’s proposals could infringe on Second Amendment rights.
Among the measures Biden proposed in his address to the nation last Thursday were banning assault rifles or raising the age at which people can purchase them, along with expanding background checks and red flag laws.
“Everyone in the country has a right, unless they’ve been adjudicated otherwise, to have a firearm or have numerous firearms, and I think some of things the president is suggesting are intruding or could intrude into that Second Amendment area,” McMaster told reporters Friday during a visit to North Charleston.
But the governor reiterated his previously vouched support for tougher penalties for people caught illegally carrying guns.
He supports a proposal from state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D – Richland, that would increase the minimum fines and prison time for people caught unlawfully possessing guns and make that offense a felony. Harpootlian’s proposal also calls for bond to be set by a circuit court judge instead of a magistrate and would not allow solicitors to be able to reduce the charge if someone was illegally carrying.
Both McMaster and Harpootlian are former prosecutors.
“Those are good ideas,” the governor said. “This is very serious. We need to be very serious about it.”
Biden’s address to the country came in the wake of an influx of incidents of deadly gun violence in recent weeks across the country, including in South Carolina.
Renewed calls nationwide for gun control and enhanced school safety measures were sparked after an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school last month.
When asked about school safety specifically, McMaster pointed toward money the South Carolina General Assembly allocated in recent years to put an armed and trained school resource officer on every campus.
While these officers’ presence has significantly increased over the last few years, about 300 of South Carolina’s 1,200-plus schools still do not have an SRO, according to the governor.
“We have the money for it, but it’s hard to find the officers to take those jobs, just like it’s hard to find people to take a lot of other jobs,” he said.
McMaster said the state is also working to increase access to mental health resources in schools.
A recent audit by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, at the governor’s request, found these services are available in fewer than half of the state’s public schools.
“We’re always looking, and we’re studying what they’re doing in other states, talking to others around the country to see what works and what would work better, if anything, in our state,” McMaster said of school safety measures as a whole.
The General Assembly closed its 2022 regular legislative session last month, so state lawmakers are away from the State House for the most part the rest of this year.
When asked if he felt gun violence and school safety were issues he would like legislators to take up when they return to Columbia later this month to finalize the state budget or in a potential special session later this year, McMaster answered instead that he wants South Carolinians to know that if they see something that could lead to gun violence to say something.
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